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All good things must come to an end and so it is with Cityness. I started this weblog over a year ago, as an experiment to see if I could connect the realm of the urban with the realms of science and arts. Whether that has been successful, is up to you to decide. For me, it was interesting to the extent that it brought me in contact with other people. But on the whole, it required considerable more energy than it returned. Some Internet-savvy people told me that the posts were too long to be published on the Internet. That may be so but I refuse to give in and join the great amounts of shallow tidbits that are strewn across the Internet. Also, the most popular posts on the website are about subjects that I will cover in an upcoming book. I think it is better that I focus my writing efforts on getting that book out instead of posting incomplete work here. So I’ve decided to stop Cityness but will continue to write contributions for the PAUME-website. Do you like to read about the urban, arts and sciences? Be sure to check out the ‘Featured’ section of the PAUME-site!

One of those pictures that I took for this weblog, without having a real story about it. It is a quick snapshot of Rotterdam, which captures the dynamics of this town nicely.

Some stats:
Cityness attracted about 10.000 hits in one year. The top three most popular single posts were the ones about Peckam, my thoughts on the role of railway stations in European cities and a discussion of the work of architect Maarten Struijs. The most popular review was the book review of Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. Some popular posts will be reposted at the PAUME website, as long as it fits the PAUME framework. This blog will remain online as long as it keeps attracting readers.

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Today we launched a new version of the PAUME website, including an agenda, artist-in-residence, background information and much more. Anybody interested in contemporary and avant-garde art, with an emphasis on the urban, may be interested to check out our new website at this link.

We included a section with background information about PAUME and a movie that pays homage to the art that inspired us to start PAUME, including Van Dillens De Stad discussed earlier on this weblog.

Please note that PAUME is curating an evening at the annual Le Guess Who Festival in Utrecht, featuring The Tapeworm:

 

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Little known fact: besides research I’m also running an independent record label Betontoon, together with my good friend Zeno van den Broek. We have been running Betontoon for a bit more than a year now and things were going well. However, we felt we had to scale things up a little. When we met Sven Schlijper (of Kindamusic, Noise Central, Salon D’Esprit, and much more) we quickly developed a whole range of new ideas, from organizing concerts to publishing books. The more ideas we developed , the more we understood that the Betontoon brand didn’t fully capture all the things we intended to do. We therefore established the Platform for Avant-garde & Urban Media Explorations, or PAUME in short, last week. With PAUME we intend to explore the avant-garde of art in the broadest sense, especially where it concerns the urban.

Our debut as a curator was when we organized a one-off performance of the legendary Z’ev – in the Merkaz synagogue in Utrecht last month. It turned out to be a very special evening with many heartfelt responses from the audience. VPRO’s 3voor12 alternative channel reviewed the evening and did an interview with us.

Putting posters up on a rainy evening in Utrecht to promote the Z'ev event in Markaz. The start of something new. Picture by me in downpour whilst trying to keep other posters and ductape dry.

New events are coming soon. We are curating an evening with The Tapeworm during the Le Guess Who? Festival in Utrecht and ‘Urban Narratives‘ in Theater De Kikker, with Machinist and Audrey Chen, again in Utrecht. Other things are on our to-do list include a CD with field recordings from different cities, a book exploring the urban in all its dimensions and an exhibition of contemporary urban art. Updates will go through our PAUME website and the Betontoon website but I will do quick updates here, too.

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This weblog is called Cityness and ever since I started it, people have been asking me what means and why I selected this name. I first came across the concept in an article by Geoff Vigar, Stephen Graham and Patsy Healey, entitled ‘In Search of the City in Spatial Strategies: Past Legacies, Future Imaginings’ (in Urban Studies, vol. 42, no. 8). The article discusses how urban citizens give meaning to the city they live in and how this creation of meaning alters the way the city is represented. The city as such is just a collection of bricks, concrete, steel and so. It is the way people perceive that collection of building materials that matters in how cities are presented to the outside world. Attaching meaning to the urban matters most. The authors observe how a unitary and integrated notion of the city is gradually being replaced by a multifaceted notion that is attached to the urban by different urbanites. As such, it becomes increasingly difficult for urban planners, architects, civil servants and politicians to address the city as a whole because it isn’t a whole whilst still functioning as a whole (you may want to read this sentence twice but I can assure you it does what it says).

The authors of the article: “What is a contemporary city? How can the nature of cities be invoked or described in policy discourses to connect meaningfully with the collective consciousness of urban dwellers and build meaningful governance coalitions? Our starting-point is that all such efforts to make the word city through political work will inevitably involve what Rob Shields (1995, 245) has called ‘treacherous selective vision’. Because the multiple time-spaces, processes and subjectivities of cities cannot be generalized with one representation, efforts to attach meaning to the word city through words, maps or images will inevitably prioritize certain spaces, people, metaphors and discourses over others. [….] They will pick out and highlight a small sub-set of the unknowable totality that constitutes an urban place […].” (2005: 1393)

The quote highlights what I find most important in trying to answer the question: what makes the urban tick? In fact, the urban ‘ticks’ because of all these different aspect and that is why I do not only focus on architecture or urban planning but also on music and sounds, vision and pictures, interviews and observations, science and experience. We need to explore the full range of the urban and be as open as we can manage to understand the city in its full diversity.

 

Blade Runner is an example of an imagination of a city that doesn't exist in reality but still conveys a strong feeling of cityness, perhaps even more than some real cities.

 

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Welcome

Hello and welcome to this blog. ‘Cityness’ is about all things urban but focuses on one particular question: what makes the urban tick? This blog will be filled with things that I think are important in answering this question. Updates will be irregular so please be patient. I hope you will enjoy the things posted here.

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